a poem by Fiona Sheehan


Spilling down his back a row of eyes.
From his perch he jumps lightly down.
An iron breeze rustles his green hair,
The miniscule veins of blood gleam in his eye
A dangerous ruby red; the liquid beauty.
The tail turns, a cache of jewels is revealed
In the sack of an unrepentant thief;
The dance of colors softens every thread.
A molten sun is poured across the yard,
Lighting a thousand emerald candle flames.
The hens look away, as two obsidian eyes
Approach with more demands than questions.
The red-breasted robin turns a dull grey
And scurries away before the god of birds.
The curve of this throat steals the intrigue of night;
His numerous eyes keep a watchful control
Over the brown maidens, subtly there.
Maybe their creator was blind to the color of power-
Or maybe they are steeped in the earthen force of their sex.

Night spreads across the peacock’s fiefdom.
A sign reads: Please don’t scare the birds.

God and Windshield / Arthur Solway

At her age, she says, life is like a train. Sometimes the ride is
     nice.
Sometimes there are stops we wish we didn’t have to make.
Spoken like one sitting casually beneath Buddha’s tree
down by the banks of the Ohio. What do I know? I was a child
and she looking as if she just stepped from a painting by Alex Katz—
Herm├Ęs scarf, sunglasses, shades of Jackie O.
Into the convertible we’d go, taking the camel humped hills
sending one’s stomach to one’s throat. She’d make the accelerated
     curve,
punch the gas, swerve the contours of careless laughter.
The car radio blaring against God and windshield
the jazz she so adores—Miles, Coltrane, Parker—from a barge
docked off the Kentucky side. “Radio Free Newport, Home of the Jazz Ark.”
Leo Underhill, the announcer, she’d insist was drunk by 10 a.m.,
while Eddie—you are the soul who snaps my control—Jefferson
crooning, There I go, there I go, there I go again

Blacksmithery / Alx Johns

The ax's head now
half submerged
and making its home
in earth and moss,

he's long forgotten
the felling
or needing the fire

that one imagined would
melt a spearhead,
its place a waste
of space now.

Then, though, back when

a dark shaft above
a pair of round wooden wheels
would shout a solid ball, a better,
a man made stone out into
a rock wall.

The sleek, smaller cannons
for each man,
are buried now in
Iwo Jima's volcanic sand.

A silver cylinder
of melted metals,
that primordial, essential glowing
flowing stuff
poured, pounded to its purpose
married to others
by fire
and capped
with a capsule,
a domicile

rose into the sky
and beyond

as fire itself forged fire,
a rocket
went into
outer space,
men

fragile enough to
lift the staring head from one another
with an iron tool
could
actually fire
skulls to the moon and
stand in the ash grey
dust and rock

and look back now
on the little earth circle,
the land one color
the sea another,
and all else
ineffably black.

On Weeds and the Millefiori of an Idle Mind / Aralee Strange


If I were pulling weeds I wouldn’t be so antsy now
so full of doubt and need of what I do not know

If I were pulling weeds my fingers would command my eyes
and find each greedy stalk and yank a path to clarity

Dirt is dirt
green is green
this is flower
this is weed

The world would slowly fade away and the broke mosaic of my brain
would come together at the task

This is flower
this is weed
I am them
they are me

I would hum the melody that scores my dreams and find
the words to calm the beast that slinks along beside me

Dirt is dirt
green is green

My thoughts would settle down in green and
lie there cool and damp and clean all day

But when I shirk my job and sit and brood upon the times and
what is yet undone and why we burn our crops and kill our young
all my fractured tableaux come unglued and shatter on the floor

where

dirt is not always dirt sometimes
it’s fake
green is just blue and yellow with maybe
a touch of red
some flowers are deadly
some weeds are flowers
angels are here if you want them to be
Trouble is here all the time
we carry him with us it’s how he gets around
ever since he lost his legs in some dirty little war
gets a free ride when he needs one just like any
other veteran

We are him
he is us
if I prayed give us grace who would I be talking to?

One scary mother doppelganger double talking to me

says
     I know you
says
     If you were pulling weeds you couldn’t hang around with me
     I am a million laughs you know but I am nature-free
     I have no truck with dirt and green they play too rough
     they do not see the difference between them and me
     my rules do not apply
says
     If you don’t mind I’ll catch a ride downtown

That’s where he stays he pays no rent he sleeps around
when he sleeps and hustles drinks and dope and sex
the patron saint of drunks and poets and black blues singers

says
     Put the pedal to the metal I’ve got a powerful thirst

And so of course a bar is first where everybody knows his name
and liquor’s cheap and flows so sweet around each word he says
and pretty soon here comes that glow that worms its way into
your heart and makes you think I’m happy now

     It’s happy hour
he spits
     another round?

So round and round and round we go and when we stop
nobody knows it’s happy hour nobody cares Trouble’s here
his voice a murmur low and warm crawling along the bar

We’re a family reunion we’re comrades in arms
he laughs at our jokes we admire his aplomb
ole roy and his posse singing old campfire songs
beneath a sky of black light blue

     Happy trails to you
     until
     we meet
     again

and the hands on the Rolling Rock clock tick around

Through the looking glass behind the bar
the other us
lost on the far side our lives in reverse
our faces morph a ghoulish frieze
I am them and they are me
(sober thought on a drunken spree)
disembodied bobbleheads blind dumb numb
is this noise home?

The air is sick with smoke and Trouble
one drink away from too many
says

     I loved a woman once
     wrapped myself around her like a kudzu vine
     until I couldn’t get loose
     Gave her begonias and forget-me-nots
     she laughed in my face
     Gave her the key to my heart
     you mean that bag of black ice in your chest?
     She touched my cheek and split

     I see her around every now and then
     she talks about her life
     we share a pot of tea
     I tell her I love her
     she says she loves me
     too

The barkeep pours out one last round and unless I miss my guess
from here on out it’s a hard fast slide down to a bad bad place
A careless word is all it takes who gives a fuck! I do you prick!
a punch is thrown the fight is on and pretty soon here come the cops

So if no one minds I’ll skip this round and pay my tab and vamanos
but

     Whoa! companera
     what can you be thinking
     the night is young and if I’m not wrong
     you’ve got the better part of a twenty left
     I know a place couple of blocks suit us to a T
     for every shot you pay for I get one shot for free
     so what do you say
     amigo?

Nothing down here is free I know that and so does he
and back on the street all I can see is not pulling weeds
is dangerous to my health not to mention my piggy bank
which hit the floor with all my marbles

So I’m counting every step and I'm stepping over cracks
full of poke weed rag weed dandelion and spotted spurge
all the green that works its way through asphalt in a season
and if I don’t watch out I’ll start asking why

why what
what you got?
Trouble on my back

says

     Seems you’re hankering to pull some weeds
     so just drop me off at Thirteenth and Main
     I’m much obliged
     Until again

Stumbling down these streets all the thousand flowers
scattered at my feet would never come together
Yesterday’s done now’s now and tomorrow’s a mystery
the tenacious vegetal pitch of my attention is focused on

Dirt is dirt
Green is green
This is flower
This is weed

I have to get down on my knees to find the picture.

Convenience / W.S. Merwin


We were not made in its image
but from the beginning we believed in it
not for the pure appeasement of hunger
but for its availability
it could command our devotion
beyond question and without our consent
and by whatever name we have called it
in its name love has been set aside
unmeasured time has been devoted to it
forests have been erased and rivers poisoned
and truth has been relegated for it
we believe that we have a right to it
even though it belongs to no one
we carry a way back to it everywhere
we are sure that it is saving something
we consider it our personal savior
all we have to pay for it is ourselves